The 50th anniversary of Greece-China diplomatic relations was celebrated with a special event, attended by hundreds on Thursday evening, at the Zappeion Hall in central Athens.
The event was also held in celebration of the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Thirty-seven Greeks were recognized for their contributions to developing strong diplomatic relations between Greece and China.
“China is now ready to work with Greece to take the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic ties as a new starting point to consolidate mutual political trust, continuously deepen practical cooperation in the fields of infrastructure, renewable energy, maritime transportation, blue economy, digital economy, and green-oriented transformation,” Chinese Ambassador to Greece Xiao Junzheng told Xinhua.
The Ambassador added: “I’m quite confident that the China-Greece comprehensive strategic partnership will be enhanced to a higher level.”
In his address, Greek Deputy Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos reviewed the development of Greece-China relations during the past fifty years, noting that Greece is on its way to becoming a regional energy and transportation hub, with China’s contribution being vital.
“There is still great potential for deepening bilateral relations in the sectors of tourism, culture, environment, economy, and energy,” Pikrammenos said.
Giorgos Patoulis, the regional governor of Attica, who was among the award recipients, said during the event that “these two civilizations of the East and the West are coming together, and the best is in front of us.”
Constantine Yannidis, President of the Hellenic-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Tourism and Shipping told Xinhua: “The award I received today for the work in the Hellenic-Chinese Chamber is a great honor for me,” and “I believe we will work together better…I am optimistic about the future.”
The tourism deal between Greece and China
Earlier this year, Greece and China signed a deal with the goal of strengthening tourism between the two countries in the future.
The deal was signed by Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias and Xiao Junzheng, the Chinese Ambassador to Greece.
The joint action plan between the two countries runs for two years from 2022 to 2024 and is aimed at bolstering the relationship between Greece and China in the tourism sector, specifically in terms of cultural, medical, and wedding tourism.
“The bonds of friendship between Greece and China are well known, as is the strong link between our civilizations and history,” Kikilias stated after signing the deal. “The signing of the joint action plan in the tourism sector is an important initiative for increasing the number of visitors.”
Junzheng stated that “China and Greece are both ancient civilizations with rich resources in tourism and strong tourism industries.”
“This year marks 50 years of the two countries’ diplomatic relationship…the signing of the joint action plan for tourism is especially significant and it strengthens the spirit of collaboration and assistance between our countries, just as President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis have expressed,” he continued.
The bill includes provisions for more tourism exhibitions in both countries to inspire more tourism between Greece and China, as well as more guided tours and trips hosted by international tourism corporations.
The two countries also pledged to support cultural tourism that celebrates the ancient history and cultures of both Greece and China, as both are some of the oldest civilizations in the world.
The bill includes provisions for wedding tourism and medical tourism between the two countries.
Additionally, Greek and Chinese language classes will be offered to people working in the tourism sectors of both countries to help boost communication and understanding between tourists and tourism workers from the two countries.
Bonds between Greece and China growing stronger
Greece can act as China’s gateway to Europe, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in October of last year after meeting his counterpart from the People’s Republic of China, Wang Yi, in Athens.
During their meeting, Dendias said, emphasis was placed on the importance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for Greece.
He said that Greece hopes to continue to strengthen ties with China following the pandemic, especially since 2022 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the two countries’ establishment of diplomatic relations.
The meeting focused on strengthening economic bonds and the prospect for further investments within the framework of the Joint Statement on the Greece-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Greece eager to attract investments from China
Despite EU and US concerns, Greece continues to maintain close ties with China. Athens is eager to attract Chinese investors, who are just as keen on putting their money into Greece.
China, primarily its state-owned shipping giant COSCO, jumped into Greece when the company took over management of the port of Piraeus. China has been expanding the port into one of the most vital in the EU and one of the best after decades of mismanagement.
COSCO started off with the acquisition of a container terminal in 2008 and increased its stakes in the port to sixty-seven percent in 2021. Piraeus is an entry point for the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative, reminiscent of the Silk Road. The plan is to use Piraeus as a gateway to the EU.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Greece in 2019, touring the port just outside Athens with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. While there, he called Piraeus “the head of the dragon” for a new Beijing investment drive in the country.
Greece hopes that it can further its interests in partnership with China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Recently, Mitsotakis expressed Greece’s appreciation for China’s stable stance in favor of settling the Cyprus issue on the basis of UN Security Council decisions.